Last Updated on May 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 545
Extended Character Analysis
Mr. Wickham, a militia officer, is at first portrayed as charming and handsome. As the novel progresses, however, Mr. Wickham’s character is revealed to be manipulative and irresponsible; his goals are money and positive attention, and Wickham employs dastardly methods to try and attain them. As an antagonistic character, Mr. Wickham serves as the catalyst for Elizabeth Bennet’s increased prejudice against Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s willingness to believe Wickham’s lies about Mr. Darcy’s maltreatment of him molds her perceptions during Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, influencing her decision to reject him.
Mr. Wickham was brought up with the Darcy family, as his father had been the Pemberley estate caretaker and a close acquaintance of Mr. Darcy’s father. As the godson of Mr. Darcy’s father, Mr. Wickham was treated kindly. Mr. Darcy’s father supported Wickham through school, allowing him to go to Cambridge in the hopes that he would become a clergyman. Mr. Wickham was included in Mr. Darcy’s father’s will, ensuring him a decent sum of money so that he might live a good life.
However, after both Mr. Wickham’s father and Mr. Darcy’s father passed away, Mr. Wickham approached Mr. Darcy and asked for a fairly large sum of money, expressing his wish to study law instead of entering the church. Mr. Darcy obliged him, but soon found that Mr. Wickham, instead of putting the money towards law school, fell into a “life of idleness and dissipation.” Mr. Wickham spent all of the money Mr. Darcy gave him and entreated Mr. Darcy again for more; this time, Mr. Darcy refused him. Mr. Wickham is manipulative, and he reacted to Darcy’s refusal by slandering Darcy’s name. The two completely fell out of contact with each other after this, save for a final illicit act: Mr. Wickham secretly tried to court Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, in order to secure her large fortune. Mr. Darcy stopped Mr. Wickham and Georgiana from eloping, but this provided undeniable proof of Mr. Wickham’s unsavory character. By manipulating the young and innocent Georgiana Darcy in pursuit of the Darcy fortune, Mr. Wickham showed himself to be an untrustworthy and selfish man.
Having a certain charm, however, Mr. Wickham attracts Elizabeth Bennet, and the two bond over a mutual dislike of Mr. Darcy’s prideful and cold behavior. Mr. Wickham lies to Elizabeth about Mr. Darcy’s alleged maltreatment of him, painting Mr. Darcy as a cruel man with no regard for the close bonds of the Wickham and Darcy families. After a failed attempt to marry a woman with a large inheritance, Mr. Wickham unexpectedly elopes with Elizabeth’s younger sister, fifteen-year-old Lydia Bennet. Although Mr. Darcy exposes Mr. Wickham’s true nature to Elizabeth, she chooses not to inform others about what she knows, allowing Lydia to fall prey to Wickham’s machinations. Mr. Darcy feels responsible for the elopement of Lydia and Wickham and bribes Wickham into agreeing to the marriage by paying off Wickham’s debts. Wickham serves as a prime example of a man who leads an unsuccessful life due to selfish and offensive actions. Wickham never truly loves Lydia, and finds himself stuck in a dysfunctional marriage.